Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Jamaica launched its first Summer Youth camp, called “Work Hard, Play Hard Summer Camp” on 9 July 2018.
The purpose of this summer camp was to give children and youth of the nearby communities of Mahdi Mosque, Jamaica an opportunity for further learning during the summer break. It was also a way for nearby communities, mainly of Christian backgrounds, to become more familiar with the Mahdi Mosque and introduce them to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat.
Some communities near the Mahdi Mosque were hesitant to visit because of negative perceptions of Islam in many Christian households. The summer camp opened an opportunity for children and families to become more familiar with the Jamaat along with children getting education in reading and writing skills, English, Maths and various other subjects.
Two fully certified and trained primary school teachers and one guidance counsellor also volunteered to teach in this program. This became an excellent opportunity to also introduce the Jamaat to these teachers.
Another aspect of the camp was that it was followed by organised sports. Volunteers from the Jamaat helped organise the youth and children in sports training.
Over 50 registered students participated (mostly of non-Muslim background) with over 15 Jamaat volunteers (including 3 non-Muslim teachers) helping in organising the camp. Approximately 50-70 youth and children regularly visited the Mosque for summer camp and sports.
Classes were split up according to age group, and Jamaat volunteers and teachers were responsible to teach classes according to age groups.
Many parents of the children showed great appreciation when missionaries went to visit the communities surrounding Mahdi Mosque to promote the summer camp.
While most summer camps in Jamaica charge fees, but as this summer camp was free, many of the parents who come from financially difficult backgrounds showed high appreciation of Jama’at to keeping it free. Fully certified school teachers volunteered to teach and thus, the standard of the camp was very high due to their teaching experience.
One of the volunteer teachers said he wished he could have a community such as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, as he was so impressed at the organisation and volunteer efforts. Some of the parents of the students later said that the children waited all day for the camp to start because they enjoyed it so much.
As the Mahdi Mosque property has facility for sports grounds, this was one of the only youth summer camps which offered education and physical activity for students.
Many of the Jamaat volunteers stayed on Mahdi Mosque property which helped in tarbiyat [moral training] as they regularly attended congregational Salat and also gave Jamaat members an opportunity to get to know each other better, creating better brotherhood and sisterhood amongst the Jama’at members.